The worldwide pipe band movement is facing the biggest challenge in its history the Chairman of the Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association, Mr John B. Hughes, said today. In a wide-ranging interview with Piping Press, Mr Hughes revealed that as a result of the pandemic:
- The World Solo Drumming scheduled for this October may have to be postponed
- Bands might have to get used to a more hygienic formation than the circle
- Outdoor contests could take place without an audience
- Band numbers might have to be reduced with increased spacing between players
- Running a beer tent could pose particular difficulties for contest promoters
Mr Hughes said that although HQ staff in Washington Street, Glasgow, were furloughed, the RSPBA’s Board of Directors were meeting every month to keep the work of the Association moving forward. They were in close contact with the devolved Scottish administration and were working alongside other major events such as the Edinburgh Festival and the Edinburgh Tattoo to establish new parameters within which they can operate safely.
But following the wipe-out of all major championships in 2020, there was, at the moment, still no firm guidance of where we would be come this September and October.
Mr Hughes: ‘There is no doubt at all that we are facing the most serious situation ever in the history of the pipe band movement. We have had difficulties in the past, but, WW2 aside, nothing, I mean nothing, comes close to what we are going through at the moment.
‘The controversy over the Worlds and Cowal, the Millennium Review and other hot issues come to mind, but nothing on this scale. I cannot remember in the entire history of the RSPBA us having to cancel one championship never mind a whole season.
‘But I have a message to all bands, and it is this. We are in there fighting and when we emerge from this trial, as emerge we will, the Association will be here for you.
‘Myself and Vice Chairman Paul Brown are in almost daily contact. Our target is to have a championship on the grass come May 2021 and a full season thereafter.
‘Everything that we do is geared towards this. We thank the bands for their patience and support so far. We need them to keep practising, to keep their hopes of competition alive.
‘If we need a ‘new normal’ then so be it. This could mean the end of the circle. Aerosol from pipers breath makes the position of the bass drummer particularly precarious! Everyone facing in the same direction could be safer.
‘Judges may need to be placed a set distance apart. If stewards and officials need PPE then that can be done. There may even be a need to have a competition without any audience, or one whereby the audience needs to wear masks.
‘The beer tent might not be possible unless there is social distancing. But I can’t imagine pipers and drummers all standing about in separate hula hoop spaces. We just do not yet know what will be asked of us, but we will, of course, comply with all regulations. This goes without saying. Nothing is more important to us than the health and safety of our members and staff.
‘We are ready to do whatever the Government asks us to do but we are determined, if it is in any way possible, to have a 2021 contest season.
‘Our next big event is the World Solo Drumming in October but we are having to keep an open mind about it. It will be next to impossible to have any social distancing among competitors, never mind having an audience. A postponement till December or January might be an option.
‘In conclusion I say this to the bands: do not lose your enthusiasm; keep going; keep your standards up. Perhaps in a few weeks here in Scotland we will be allowed small, outdoor mini band practices – brass bands have already been given this dispensation in England.
‘We are communicating with the highest levels of officialdom and we in turn will be communicating with the bands and to our affiliated associations worldwide as soon as we have any new information to pass on.
‘The pipe band movement is one of the glories of our traditional music heritage. We are doing everything we can to return it to its rightful place in our cultural life and to do so as soon as possible.’
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